A report published by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) on the sector’s contribution to tourism, festivals and sports found the drinks industry accounts for approximately 50% of all sponsorship of some 800 festivals held in Ireland every year. In contrast banks and building societies provide just 6%.
The drinks industry is also the biggest contributor to horse racing sponsorship, accounting for 18% of the total.
The report claimed the facilities and services provided by the drinks industry were vital elements of Irish tourism.
Commenting on the report’s findings, DIGI chairman Kieran Tobin said the drinks industry would also play a key role in the further development of tourism which has been identified by the Government as an essential element of economic recovery.
Mr Tobin said the sector had played an important part in building the image of Ireland as “a hospitable, convivial, people-oriented place”.
Asked about the stereotype of having important visitors such as Queen Elizabeth and US president, Barack Obama, pose for a picture with a pint of Guinness, Mr Tobin said that while they made for iconic images, they represented just brief moments of their tours in Ireland.
Mr Tobin also stressed the sponsorship of key cultural and sporting events like the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and the Heineken Cup very often had more to do with the marketing of a brand rather than on direct sales.
He highlighted how the drinks industry provided many important elements of the national tourism infrastructure such as the Guinness Storehouse, which is the country’s second largest tourist attraction after Dublin Zoo.
While the industry continues to record impressive export performance, Mr Tobin acknowledged that domestic sales of alcohol had continued to decline. DIGI has estimated that pub sales have fallen by 7% so far in 2011 after suffering a 10% decrease in revenue last year.
Mr Tobin called on the Government not to place any further restrictions on its commercial freedom to advertise, promote and sponsor. “We are asking the Government to demonstrate joined-up thinking in their policies,” remarked Mr Tobin.
The author of the report, Dublin City University economist Anthony Foley, said its findings clearly demonstrated a strong association between Ireland’s tourism image and its major drinks brands.
The chief executive of the Irish Rugby Football Union, Philip Browne, said it was often overlooked that sponsorship had a “huge impact” on the funding of sports at grassroots level.